One of the newest concepts to revolutionize energy efficient home building is not all that new when you think about it. The biggest buzz among home builders and architects is solar orientation and the variety of residential solar products in the market that are designed to use the sun’s natural energy to cut or eliminate energy bills, or even create a surplus of free power. We are incorporating solar orientation and natural energy usage into our Olivette, MO renovation and the Active House USA prototype home we are building in Webster Groves, MO, and we are working closely with our new clients to educate them on the availability and usage of natural energy when designing their new home.
Because many times it is synonymous with green building, the first thing people often as us about when talking about energy efficient or high performance homes is solar power. Capturing the sun’s light via cells that then convert it into power has been around for long enough that many people understand at a most basic level how it works. But, unfortunately, many St Louis homeowners stop investigating natural energy practically before they begin, imagining that living in an old neighborhood with lots of trees of the snowy and dark winters our mixed climate brings means they would just have to do without power when there is cloud cover, or that it is not practical here in the Midwest like it would be in a coastal region with lots of sunshine daily. Both of those assumptions are wrong-many homes in St Louis can and do use solar power and other methods of capturing and using natural energy, and many new homes are being built with well synchronized systems in place so that they are operating close to, or even completely without, the use of any external energy utilities.
There are many factors aside from just installing solar panels that go into the design of the home it’s self and the systems inside that allow homeowners to build or renovate their home to take advantage of natural energy. From understanding the relative position of the sun to the home to gauge day lighting and solar exposure for the lot and different areas of the home, to capturing that light and energy through solar cells, sun tunnels, and window placement, to carefully planning redundancy systems that use natural resources (such as geothermal or natural gas) to power the home in the sun’s absence, energy efficient homes are the product of a complex science that requires a well versed home building team to execute but is completely within reach for St Louis homeowners.
One of the most appealing aspects of the advances in energy efficient building, and one that our clients are always happy to learn, is that you can do all of this without ending up with a house that looks a beehive or aquarium. With so many of favorite neighborhoods in St Louis also being those that are dotted with century old homes, this is welcome news to many. And, in fact, our clients have built beautiful homes that blend seamlessly with the charm and character of the neighborhood around them (even Old Webster!), but with performance and durability that far outpaces the surrounding homes that were built to codes that became outdated long ago – a beauty that is more than just skin (or shingles) deep.